The march of the black boxes

darth vader by Flickr user trustypics

Used on a CC license by Flickr user trustypics

This post was originally published in Electronics Weekly in our new series called Unscrewed.

No doubt about it, tablets and mobiles are getting thinner and harder to open. More parts are glued, fused and soldered together, all in the pursuit of these sleek sealed gadgets.

We’re reminded of an anecdote about the late Steve Jobs, who supposedly took a poor engineer’s prototype of the first iPod, walked to the aquarium, and dropped it in. Air bubbles floated to the surface, and Jobs said “make it smaller”.

This obsession with sleek, thin, sealed black boxes has spread well beyond Apple, and well beyond handheld data-enabled devices.

Recently we’ve started to wonder: are we facing a whole new generation of electronics which even we cannot save during our three hour, fun and free community events? Continue reading

Repairing with young product designers

We had an excellent day yesterday at Central Saint Martins, one of the University of the Arts London campuses, most associated with product design. We started the day with a lecture to second year students about what we have learned working with hundreds of frustrated electronics owners over the past nine months.

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Our top 4 messages to future product designers… Continue reading

Our Top Fixes of 2012: #3 – Beware of the “Genius”

Barti, Adrian and Janet in the middle of troubleshooting

Barti, Adrian and Janet in the middle of troubleshooting

Barti brought her MacBook Pro with a “dead screen” to a Restart Party. We troubleshooted her computer and figured that the problem was actually with the video card: the laptop would switch on normally, with the familiar Mac OS X start-up sound, while screen was completely black, not even marginally dim (which is what usually happens when the lightbulb behind the screen needs replacing). We suggested to Barti that she tested the laptop with an external monitor: if that didn’t work, she could know for sure whether it was the video card. After the event, Barti’s tests confirmed our diagnosis, so she took her laptop to the Genius Bar at the local Apple Store. She was quoted £370 to have the video card replaced, but the technician advised Barti that, given the steep cost, it might have made more sense to just resell the laptop for spare parts, and look for another one. When she asked us for further advice, we knew there had to be a better solution. Continue reading